The state’s only children’s hospital child life program will bring more smiles to Children’s of Mississippi patients thanks to the Sidney P. Allen and Friends of Children’s Hospital Child Life Fund, which has reached a total of more than $1.1 million.
The fund is a memorial to Allen, a successful businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist as well as board chairman of Friends of Children’s Hospital, who died Nov. 10, 2018, after a brief battle with cancer.
The total raised so far was announced during a May 17 presentation at the hospital’s Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A check presented by Friends of Children’s Hospital for $392,181.36 brought the fund’s total to seven figures. The fund will generate about $70,000 for Children’s of Mississippi’s child life program each year.
“Sidney Allen was not one to be messed with,” remembered John Scarbrough, the current board chairman of Friends who served on the nonprofit’s board with Allen. “If it was to help children, it was going to happen.”
The Sidney P. Allen and Friends of Children’s Hospital Child Life Fund supports child life, which helps patients and families cope with stress or other issues related to treatment and their time in the hospital. Child life professionals soothe patients with therapeutic play and help them and their families prepare for procedures, reducing fear, anxiety and pain.
The Friends of Children’s Hospital raises funds to support Children’s of Mississippi, the state’s only children’s hospital.
“We can’t do our job without child life,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor of pediatrics, noting how therapeutic play and education helps young patients and their families cope with illness and treatments.
“We often say that it takes more than medicine to heal a child,” said Kristin Kappler Hardy, Children’s of Mississippi’s director of quality and clinical support services. “The unwavering support from Sidney Allen and Friends of Children’s Hospital through the years has been amazing.”
Child life therapy has been shown to reduce pain and anxiety and shorten hospital stays.
Allen, a University of Mississippi alumnus, began his career working with his father at Delco Development Co. in Indianola, followed by serving as a congressional aide in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. James O. Eastland. He returned to Jackson in 1975 to serve as vice president of Hancock Mortgage Corp. and later as president of Mississippi Mortgage Co. He returned to Indianola in 1982 as vice president of Allen Corp., before moving back to Jackson in 1984. He served in a variety of capacities in ventures including Southeastern Timber Products and Vicksburg Forest Products with his long-time friend and business partner, William J. Van Devender Sr.
For more than two decades, Allen was a board member of Friends of Children’s Hospital. He co-chaired the annual Trustmark Children’s Hospital Pro-Am, which he helped establish.
The child life program has been the designated beneficiary of the Pro-Am for many years. Child life was also the first program supported by Friends in 1990, when the nonprofit donated $5,000 toward the hospital’s activity room fund.
Remembering his father with a gift supporting the child life program at Children’s of Mississippi “felt right,” said his son, Sidney Allen Jr. “This program was important to Dad for many years.”
William Van Devender Jr., a member of the Friends board, and Allen’s son, Sidney Allen Jr., now co-chair the tournament.
“Sidney was the head of the golf tournament for more than 30 years, and more than $2.5 million has been raised for the hospital through the Pro-Am,” Van Devender Sr. said. “He was a strong supporter of sick children in Mississippi and worked tirelessly for them.”
Donations can be made to Friends of Children’s Hospital, 3900 Lakeland Dr., Suite 205, Flowood MS 39232, with the Sidney P. Allen and Friends of Children’s Hospital Child Life Fund in the memo line, or online at friendsofch.org by adding the name of the fund under additional information.
By Annie Oeth, UMMC Public Affairs